Hardly a day goes by when Ken Ramsey doesn’t pick up the Racing Form and scan it for a potential steal.
An Eclipse Award winner with more than 30 owner’s titles to his credit, including a record 14 at Churchill Downs, much of Ramsey’s success is due to his keen handicapping skills and tireless work ethic that has made him one of the best claiming owners Thoroughbred racing has ever seen.
For all of Ramsey’s sharp claims, none has paid more dividends than the one he recently pulled off with Furthest Land. A 4-year-old son of Smart Strike, Ramsey claimed Furthest Land for $35,000 back in October 2008 and the gelding has gone on to win seven of 11 races for his new owner, including the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) Nov. 7 at Santa Anita Park. The 21-1 upset gave Ramsey his first Breeders’ Cup victory from 15 starters and gave Furthest Land the honor of being just the second horse to win a World Championship race after being claimed.
“We’ve had a lot of success claiming,” said Ramsey, who along with his wife, Sarah, owns the 1,400-acre Ramsey Farm near Nicholasville, Ky. “Before this, our best claim was probably Accredit, who won the Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) this year. But this one was our best claim ever. It’s redemption for Kitten's Joy, who ran second (in the 2004 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf, gr. IT) at 3-5.”
Ramsey said the impetus for the Furthest Land claim was no different than most of his other claims. A wide variety of factors that include pedigree, age, connections, and speed figures were taken into consideration before he plucked the dark bay or brown gelding out of a $35,000 turf event at Belmont Park on Oct. 24, 2008.
“I loved the breeding on this horse,” Ramsey said. “Of course, he’s by a leading sire in Smart Strike and out of a Rahy mare; very good genetics. And I like taking horses that are bred by quality people. Catherine Wills bred him and she takes very good care of her horses.
“His trainer, Christophe Clement, is one of the best. We follow his horses closely because he has some good ones, but sometimes he has a tendency to get a little impatient with his horses. We had success with another Clement horse—Catienus—who we picked up (for $50,000 in 1999) and he has gone on to become a good, blue-collar sire that has made a lot of money for us.
“This one (Furthest Land) had never tried synthetics before and he had a chance to improve on a different surface. He was young and had a lot of upside, according to the Ragozin sheets, which are very good and I use a lot. My trainer, Michael Maker, does a good job of checking these horses out for me. He followed him from his barn to the paddock to make sure the legs were clean, and we decided to drop a claim in on him.”
After finishing second in that claiming race, Furthest Land went on to win three straight for his new connections on turf. In April, he won an optional claimer on the Keeneland Polytrack in his first try on a synthetic surface and five months later scored in the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) at Turfway Park, also on Polytrack. That win gave Ramsey confidence that Furthest Land belonged in the Breeders’ Cup.
“Did I think he would win? Not really, but I thought he had a chance,” said Ramsey. “Based off my handicapping, I thought Cannonball was my best chance, but he ran third (in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint).
“Everything just came together right on this one. There are times we claim a horse that we think looks great and we get stuck. Sometimes we get a horse that looks beautiful but we do a scope and the epiglottis shows that he can’t breathe (well).”
Now that he won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Ramsey has even loftier goals for Furthest Land. Immediately plans call for him to be sent down to Florida to run on the turf at Gulfstream Park this winter, and then he will be shipped to Dubai for a chance at the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 27.
“We were invited, so why not take a shot for $10 million?” Ramsey said. “We won the World Cup in 2005 with Roses in May. I’ve been there twice and love it. They treat me like a Sheikh. Cannonball will also go over there to run in the sprint race (Golden Shaheen, UAE-I).”